Steve Kleber, founder of integrated marketing communications firm Kleber & Associates, and I recently discussed the opportunities in the growing outdoor living segment of the home renovation industry. Since Labor Day weekend is a time for some to embark on outdoor living DIY projects, we thought it an appropriate topic to explore here.
– Chris Luzar, Frohman & Associates
The Home Depot released its second quarter results last week and are seen as a key indicator of the strength of the overall home improvement business. While there were still some red flags in its numbers, they were smaller and perhaps a little less red as indicators of what’s going on in the economy as a whole. “We remain very positive on the medium-to-long-term outlook for home improvement,” said Ted Decker, president and CEO of the giant company. Decker said while some “big-ticket, discretionary categories” continued to show softness, “there was strength in categories associated with smaller projects.” That would seem to indicate that the DIY customer is still out there and doing home improvement jobs while bigger, builder-led spending remained challenged.
The Home Depot’s CEO is seeing that the home improvement spree Americans went on during the pandemic seems to be slowing down, at least for larger projects. Many factors come into play, but the most significant is a tight housing market, with 90% of homeowners locked into a mortgage rate below 6% (and 61% less at than 4%).
The Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) Monthly Tracker highlights this slowdown – only 10% of households spent $5000 or more on home improvement in the last 6 months. – and 80% of these projects were defined as maintenance or repair.
- Interesting sidebar stat: When homeowners actually go ahead and launch home improvement projects, they do it themselves. HIRI Tracker data reports 65% of homeowners completed home improvement, repair, or maintenance project on a DIY basis vs. hiring out the work to a contractor.
The Maverick Outlier
Builder products manufacturers take note. One home improvement that bucks mainstream trends: Outdoor Living Projects — specifically deck renovation or new deck construction.
Everybody has a space outside the home and adding an artfully engineered deck or patio boosts usable living and entertainment space. No tearing down walls and no plumbing… adding a deck is the easiest project to do with existing available real estate.
Results from a recent Qualified Remodeler survey reveal the top five reasons homeowners invest in outdoor living projects. The number one motivator is to create entertainment space. Contractors across all regions concur.
- Growth in decks is real. Consumers are more into family; they want tighter relationships. Decks give homeowners extra space for entertaining and a fun way to reconnect with family and friends.
Deck projects can be done on a DIY basis, but of course, not all homeowners take that approach. A Study by Freedonia Market Research Group published July 2023 showed homeowners shifting their spending to professional contractors and installed building products for outdoor living home enhancements.
Other Key Findings from Freedonia:
- Total spending for outdoor living projects and building material sales will remain elevated above pre-pandemic levels despite inflationary concerns and labor shortages.
- DIYers and Pros build decks using products that incorporate sustainability and convenience into their design. When installed, these products deliver professional results without the need for extensive training or tools. What’s equally important is after the deck goes up, preferred building materials require no or low maintenance.
- Near-term growth rates in several outdoor product segments will be challenged by growing price sensitivity among consumers who will continue to look for high-value solutions, not just low-cost products.
Go-To Products That Get the Job Done
Select NADRA (North America Decking & Railing Association) contractors and DIY deck builders discuss preferred products used to build and renovate decks:
- There’s a 1000% increase in the use of composites. I rarely use wood because homeowners don’t have the time to clean and re-stain their decks every few years. Maintenance is a big consideration in the products I choose. Once homeowners put all their chairs, tables, and “stuff” out, they would lose weeks in the summer moving everything to re-stain the surface. They would never do it.
- I add decks mostly to existing homes – simple decks, but also [deluxe] versions — decks with pergolas, gazebos, pavilions. Budget and safety determine what we design and the products we use. The trend is to composite materials — there’s more options vs 5 years ago so it’s not as pricey as it was. For railings, I use composite post, aluminum top and bottom rail, balusters are aluminum or stainless, sometimes glass. Timesaving, easy-to-install, strong warranty, built with safety in mind.
- There’s more interest in outdoor living and bigger decks being built. Typical design: deck walk-out that is at the elevation of the main house and then another deck under it for more living space below. 95% of our decks have railings. We use aluminum railings. It’s almost ready to go — baluster connectors are pre-attached, so it goes up easily.
Consolidated Commentary: DIY Deck Builders
Floating or freestanding decks are the structures of choice for DIYers looking to expand their square footage outside the home. The ideal is a deck completed over a weekend with minimal tools and no complicated calculations. To ensure the build is straightforward, DIYers often turn to pro-tips and readily available decking, railing systems, and kits found at major home improvement stores.
Express Mount Brackets Cut Time and Cost in Half
A new, patent-pending product from RailFX, the innovative Express Mount Bracket makes it easier and faster to install cable railing. These systems have been frequently mentioned as go-to solutions that not only create a visually immersive outdoor space but also make freestanding decks feel more spacious. The bonus: the professional look RailFX provides is surprisingly easy to achieve and cost-effective.
It’s Deck Season – Everywhere
Pros like ready-to-go cable railing too:
- The job gets done faster and we save our customers money.
From simple decks and patios to completely functional outdoor rooms, the trend to add-on living space is growing, coast to coast. The types of outdoor spaces depend on the region, but one constant prevails:
- Consumers want an oasis right at home, a getaway that’s no fuss.
Social media plays a significant role in shaping the ideal deck too, with inspiration drawn from 5-star resorts featuring open deck designs shaded under trees:
- What comprises the ideal deck is shaped by social media. Consumers want those relaxed open-air living spaces both in the front and back of their homes. One innovation we designed that’s gaining popularity is bar tops integrated into the handrail, providing a convenient space for space for food prep and beverage enjoyment while maintaining a seamless aesthetic and the chiller views.
As deck season thrives everywhere, evolving design preferences cater to the desire for functional, stylish, and enjoyable outdoor spaces. Outdoor Living, and the decks that define it, have become an indispensable feature of the relaxed, open-air lifestyle.
Interested in ways to reach and influence homeowners interested in outdoor living spaces? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get the conversation started.